To make a long story short, I recently, despite my avowed atheism, got shanghaied into running the sound system at a local church for a revival (There's more to the story, but -- hey, I did say "to make a long story short," didn't I? Thought so).

Now like many atheists, I was a religious kid and a regular church-goer through my teens, and my memories of that time are not entirely negative -- specifically, I enjoyed singing hymns, many of which are pretty fine work, musically and poetically, and can be a lot of fun to sing. So I was comforting myself with the idea that I could enjoy a week's worth of old-fashioned hymn-singin', so the experience wouldn't be a total loss. Alas, it was not to be. The classic hymns of my youth are being cruelly killed off. The culprit? Praise music.

Praise music appears to be a ploy to turn normal sane Christians into evangelical loonies. Remember the songs you sang as a kid at summer camp? Praise music makes "This Little Light of Mine" sound like German opera. They're all heavy on the "feel-good" and light on any real substance. It's all designed to be accompanied by guitar or canned music -- you won't hear a single note from an organ during these things. Not only is praise music dumbed-down as far as they can get it, but most of it seem to be taken directly from Christian pop radio stations. And after the third straight song describes God as "awesome," the word (and the songs, for that matter) tend to lose all real meaning.

And my folks tell me that their church is working overtime to get rid of all the "high church" elements and turn the whole service into a "celebration service," with lots of praise music, hand-waving, and hollering during the sermon. Anything challenging or traditional is being excised in favor of keeping people entertained. They're making damn sure that the congregation gets a steady diet of spiritual candy instead of the spiritual meat-and-potatoes that could provide them some real sustenance through life's tough periods. They can't stay "high on the spirit" all the time -- eventually, they'll either come down and drop out of religious life, or they'll go running to another church that has a better dog-and-pony show.

So why should I, an avowed atheist, care about this? Because more praise music and useless showmanship in church means more and bigger sound systems -- and in a couple of years, I'll be booked solid all summer long running the sound at revival after revival after revival...

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